A hit and run accident is, by definition, surprising. One moment you’re driving along a quiet road, enjoying the sunshine, and the next moment adrenaline is flooding your veins as you veer off into a ditch because a car sideswiped yours.
What just happened?
A hit and run is when a driver hits another car, a person, an animal or property and fails to provide his or her insurance information or render aid before leaving the scene. In Texas, this is a serious criminal charge that can range from a misdemeanor to a felony. Punishment can be everything from a fine all the way up to incarceration.
Under the Texas Transportation Code, a driver must stop and take certain actions after a crash that results in property damage or injury to another driver. In order to avoid the criminal charge of leaving the scene of an accident, a driver must do the following:
Failure to comply with any of these requirements could potentially result in arrest. Many people are worried that whatever they say when filing a report will be used against them; however, Texas law specifically states that whatever statements drivers give when filing a report cannot be used against them in a civil suit.
We all make mistakes. If you accidentally hit a parked car, caused an accident or hit a bicyclist, motorist or a pedestrian, there are steps you should take to minimize your liability and avoid criminal charges.
If you hit an unattended vehicle, you should do at least some of the following:
1. Wait for the vehicle owner to return.
2. Enter surrounding businesses to see who owned the car or other vehicle.
3. Take photos of the damage you caused.
4. Talk to witnesses and get their contact information.
5. Leave a note on the windshield with your contact and insurance information if you can’t locate the vehicle’s owner.
6. Call your insurance company and tell them what happenned.
If you hit a car or pedestrian, Texas law §550.021 explains that drivers must not leave the scene of any accident they cause. In order to avoid an arrest for a hit and run crime as well as minimize your civil liability, you must:
Depending on what caused the accident, you may still be responsible for damages should a lawsuit occur. Nevertheless, by acting responsibility, you may able to avoid punitive damages and other criminal penalties.
There are many reasons why a driver wouldn’t stay to survey the damage.
Don’t try to chase after the driver, even if you think you can catch him. That will result in you getting pulled over for speeding.
First of all, stay calm. Check on everyone in the car. State laws require that all drivers, not just the perpetrators, stay at the scene and call the police; this way, you can preserve the official record for your insurance company. Provide basic first aid and wait for emergency medical services to arrive. Try to get your vehicle toward the side of the road if possible.
Normally, this is when you’d exchange insurance information with the other driver. Instead you’ll just be waiting for the cops and medical services to arrive. In the meantime, collect information and evidence.
A post-accident report form like this one can be kept in your glove compartment for times like these. It has all of the relevant information your insurance company will need for a claim. In this instance, filling it out will be rather one-sided. Take pictures on your phone of the accident scene, your car’s damage, the weather conditions and whatever else looks possibly relevant. Remember, it’s better to have too much rather than too little evidence.
See if there are any witnesses around and ask them what they saw. Most importantly, get their contact information! If a witness leaves town, it will be almost impossible to track him down again.
For hit and run drivers, you have to be creative in trying to find them. Think of every piece of identifying information you can:
Finally, once all of that has been taken care of, contact your insurance company and file a claim. Even though you weren’t able to get the other driver’s insurance information, it’s possible that your coverage includes a form of underinsurance. Many insurance companies offer underinsurance or uninsurance for this very scenario. Check your coverage and see if that’s included in your benefits.
When a driver leaves the scene without offering his information, an injured driver will have to turn to his own company to cover his medical bills. This happens more often than you think – what if you got hit by someone who was only carrying the minimum required insurance, for example, and your medical bills exceeded that minimum? It’s good to have a backup, and the premiums aren’t that expensive.
Dealing with a hit and run driver is exhausting. Hiring an attorney can be a great way to get a lot of the work off your plate. Consider checking out Enjuris’ Texas law firm listings!